Return of crowds at football leads to rows over ticket allocations and high prices

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Chelsea fans protesting against the European Super League last month - GETTY IMAGES
Chelsea fans protesting against the European Super League last month - GETTY IMAGES

The long-awaited return of crowds is erupting into a row over ticket numbers and prices, with football accused of failing to learn from the European Super League outrage.

One of the 'Big Six' plotters, Tottenham Hotspur, sparked the most anger amongst supporters by setting a £60 price band on a 6pm midweek kick-off for the only home match that fans can attend this season.

Meanwhile, Chelsea and Leicester City fans angrily attacked the FA over their allocations of 6,250 each from a 22,000 capacity for the Wembley FA Cup final on May 15. "We are supporters not customers," said a joint statement issued on Thursday by the Chelsea Supporters' Trust.

The cup final is the last Government pilot before the official return of fans two days later, on May 17. The allocation of 9,500 for local residents in the Brent area, key workers and FA affiliates and sponsors was approved by Government and local authorities.

However, the Chelsea Supporters' Trust aimed its fire at the FA, saying it is "thoroughly disappointed at the allocations", while the Foxes Trust has agreed it is "unacceptable."

"We believe that with proper communication and consultation with supporters, a more favourable approach could have been adopted to give more loyal supporters an opportunity to attend," the Chelsea fans' statement said.

"We ask that the authorities make it clear how the tickets have been allocated to whom and in what quantities. For some time now, the Football Supporters' Association has been concerned about allocations at Wembley. And this year indicates that the status quo remains."

The fans said the failed Super League breakaway had illustrated "the integrity of their competitions is under threat". "The FA are quick to condemn those involved – yet, only two weeks later, are still happy to have little consideration for supporters when they themselves are financially benefiting. We are supporters not customers."

Tottenham, meanwhile, were accused by the chairman of the club's supporters' trust of presiding over a "shambles" in announcing sky-high prices for the Aston Villa match. "The first ticketing decision taken without talking to your fan reps in eight years and you've made a total shambles of it, and turned even more loyal supporters against you," said Martin Cloake, co-chair of THST. "The sheer incompetence is breathtaking."

Tottenham had confirmed in a statement that the 6pm match against Aston Villa will be "in line with the average price of a seat across our general admission areas for a Category B fixture" – which is £60 for an adult, plus a booking fee of £1.75.

"The increased capacity for the Aston Villa fixture will see us open our South Stand and Level 5 of the East, North and West stands to general admission supporters, with Premium areas opened in both the East and West stands," the club said.

In response to the pricing, an incandescent Cloake added: "It takes a special kind of intelligence to turn the return of fans after a year locked out into a PR disaster."

Pointing out that it was now 60 years since Tottenham won the Double, he made a comparison with the Danny Blanchflower quote "the game is about glory". He added: "The game is about charging your fans £60 in a pandemic. It is about digging yourself into a hole so deep you'll end up melted by the Earth's core."

Government is still crowd testing a host of indoor and outdoor venues, but the data so far keeps the UK on track for two critical dates – May 17, when 10,000 spectators are able to return, and June 21, when it is hoped venues can begin opening up fully.

The penultimate Premier League matchday was moved to March 18 to ensure the final two rounds of games this season can be played with fans. The last game of the season is the following Sunday, May 23. The league has shelved plans to invite 500 away fans.